Once upon a time my son and I were a part of an organization called “Y Adventure Guides”. It’s run through the YMCA and it’s basically similar to Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts except that it has a Native American theme.
You are part of a tribe (Winnebago. Oneida. Commanche etc). You have a tribal Chief. A Nation Chief. You get to pick an Indian name like Soaring Eagle or Running Bear…It’s a father and son program.
The kids earn feathers for doing outdoors tasks or learning new skills…The boys love it. They also have it for the girls (Indian Princesses) and some fathers who have girls and boys may choose to join a tribe for each.
As you might imagine, there are funds needed for the activities and camps and such, so of course there are fundraisers etc. But along the way each tribe must also give back to the world in the form of charity work.
Our tribe chose to be bell ringers for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season last year. It’s not a huge commitment. We take one Saturday and each father/son team rings the bell for thirty minute to one hour increments.
I took my son one Saturday and en route did my best to explain what we going to do and why we were going to do it.
It’s quite a challenge to explain the concept of poverty to a six/seven year old. I did my best with the hope of each time I explain such things as charitable giving or explain homelessness, a little piece of wisdom or knowledge breaks off and he takes it with him.
After all, I guess none of us will know where our memories will come from exactly.
We do know there will be some good memories and some bad memories and if we effort on the side of good more often, the end result of the child we will have raised will be a positive one.
When we arrived at the grocery store where were ringing, we were greeted by a few fellow members of our tribe and the store manager who promptly offered my son and his pals some hot chocolate.
Right away, this experiment of giving in the form of a bell ringing had an instant positive vibe to it for my son.
We rang the bell for our shift — bit over 30 minutes. That’s it.
And in that time, the support and generosity of folks who merely passed by before or after getting their groceries was amazing. There had to be almost one hundred dollars donated in the half an hour we were there.
What in learned before we left, was even more amazing to me. There are people who work for the Salvation Army that get paid to ring the bell.
I’m sorry, what?
There are people that get paid to ring the bell for the Salvation Army.
I guess I could grasp the concept of getting paid to assist a charity. But as a tribal member soon said: “If you think about it. It makes some sense. There are probably a lot more of these buckets scattered all around the five-county area than there are people or clubs who do charity work.”
Okay. I see his point, but then I think about the massive numbers of churches around the country that preach generosity and giving. I think of the number of schools: High Schools, grade Schools, Middle Schools, Colleges and Universities…The number of clubs..Lions, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Elks….the number of athletic teams…the number of corporations…Need I say more?
And we can’t fill the Salvation Army bucket locations with volunteers? Is it really fair to call the Holiday Season the season of giving?
I gave my son six dollars — One dollar for each year of his age at the time. Maybe each year of his life he will add a dollar to that number and put it in a red Salvation Army Bucket during the holiday season.
We don’t all have to donate ten grand to some charity to make a difference. It’s the collective contributions of six dollar donations. Thirty minute gift of your time and the idea that maybe you can give a little more each time.
Think about it: To stand and ring a bell for thirty minutes is actually standing and doing almost nothing at all.
But it’s exactly the sort of nothing that matters a lot.